Marvelous Monday – Preschool & Kindergarten

     Kendra and I are winding down our Marvelous Monday series.  We’ll have our final installment next week, unless one of us (or one of you) brings up something we’ve missed!  It seems as though we are ending where, perhaps, we should have begun.  Today we are talking about Preschool and Kindergarten.
     I’m stepping into dangerous territory here, since Kendra is widely known for her preschool advice.  However, I have had four preschoolers of my own, and I still have grandbabies who are preschoolers, so I’m not totally out of the loop.   I will have a few resources for you at the end of this post; but first, I want to just talk to you about this wonderful, delightful, ends-all-too-soon age group of very young children.


     The best thing, the very best thing, you can do with your young children is simply to delight in them.  Of course you must discipline them when they misbehave, and you must correct them when they are wrong, and you must say “no” quite often.  But how often are you smiling at your little ones?  How often are you laughing at their childish antics?  How often are you saying “no” when you really could say “yes”?  How often do you simply gather them up in your arms, spin them around and kiss their chubby little cheeks before setting them back down to go their merry way?
 

     I know these years can be hard, especially if all of your children are quite young.  Might I remind you that God makes no mistakes in sending children our way.  He knows, far better than you, what you are able to handle.  If it all seems way too overwhelming, stand back and evaluate what you might be trying to do that He has not called you to do.  Volunteer work, weekly ladies Bible studies, leading Awanas or Missionettes,  – these are all good and worthy pursuits, but are they the BEST things you can be doing in this season of having little ones in your home?  I cannot know your circumstances, but I do know this.  God does not give us more than we are able to handle.  If we are overwhelmed, we are doing more than God has given us to do.  Learn to let go of the things that are not yours to do right now.

       Smile at your little ones.  Take time to listen to their silly stories, watch their made-up play, and do it without looking at your watch every two minutes.  Talk to them, and with them.  Tell them about God as you marvel with them at the butterfly in the garden, or the mountains as you travel, or the new kitten you’ve just brought home.  Tell them about God’s love for them and how He sent His son Jesus to die for their sins.  Be sure they know that He rose again and that He has gone ahead to prepare a place for them in eternity.  You have nothing better to do than this!  There is no mission field better suited for you to work in than that of your own home.
     Rather than sending them off to play while you work, let them work with you.  Yes, you’ll work slower, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing, now is it?  In the process, you will be training them to be efficient household helpers as they get older.  Count the socks as you fold them.  Talk about where milk comes from as you fill the cups for lunch.  Stand him on a chair next to you while you peel the potatoes or wash up the dishes, and splash a few soap bubbles on him in the process!

     I would also encourage you to spend a lot of time reading aloud to your little ones.  This comes naturally if you started when they were babies, but it can become natural even now.  Choose books that they love, and expect to to read the same story over and over and over again.  Try to read it every time as if it were the first.  From time to time introduce a book with a bit more advanced vocabulary, but be sure to read it with as much emotion as you do your favorite picture book.  Use voices for the characters.  Use accents (they don’t have to be perfect!).  Laugh when the story is funny and DELIGHT in the fun of laughing with your little ones.  Be sad when the story is sad. 
     If your home runs best on a schedule, then schedule in two, three or even more, short times every day to read aloud.  Certain times of the day seem naturally suited to this – before naps and bedtimes, for example, as your children are finishing up their breakfast or lunch, or when you’re nursing the baby.  If you’re more of a fly by the seat of your pants kind of household, just keep a few stacks or baskets of read aloud books here and there around the house and read whenever seems best.  You can read aloud to children playing quietly with blocks or coloring, they don’t need to be still and quiet for this.  Put two or three picture books into your diaper bag or purse (we all carry huge purses anyway, right?), and you’re ready to read aloud while at the park or in the waiting room.
     Keep lots of arts and crafts materials on hand and give your children access to it.  If there is any way that you can set up a table (child-sized is best) somewhere in a corner where they can create and make messes and leave projects-in-process out, all the better!  A messy child’s art project laid out, but contained to the art table, passes for excellent housekeeping, and mother-of-the-year award status in my book!!

     Take walks together in the forest, on the beach or just around your neighborhood.  Pick up nature samples along the way and admire them with your children.  Perhaps you can give them a small nature treasures box to keep their finds in.  Most important, enjoy your time outdoors with your children.
     While I’m really not an advocate of pursuing formal academics with little ones, there are some children who are hungry to learn and are ready for academics.  I wouldn’t hold those who are ready back.  However, if your young children aren’t ready for formal academics, don’t worry about it.  All children are different.  I’ve had children read as early as three and as late as 9 1/2.  By the time they were 12, it had all evened out and everyone was working at or above age/grade level.  One of the biggest benefits of homeschooling is being able to accommodate the needs of each child as far as is possible.
     Here are the resources that I’ve used in my own home.

    
     Slow and Steady Get Me Ready: A Parents’ Handbook for Children from Birth to Age 5 by June Oberlander.  True to its title, this book has all sorts of activities you can use with your children, week by week, starting a birth.  No, I did NOT use this whole book with any of my children, but I did refer to it from time to time and found some great little activities that my children and I enjoyed and that met them where they were developmentally.  My copy is ancient, but I still like it.  A newer version, which I’ve not used, is also available. 

     102 “I-Can-Do-It-Myself” Activities for Preschoolers – 102 Activities to happily occupy preschoolers for 15 to 30 minutes with minimal adult supervision, by Leslie Retchko and Peggy Zorn.  This is out of print, and pricey online, but watch for copies at homeschool used curriculum swaps.  Again, I did not use all 102 ideas, but I did use dozens.  Stencil drawing, book making, flashlight play, funnel play……there’s really nothing “new” in this book, but here’s the deal.  When you are in desperate need of 20 minutes to help an older child with math, you are not going to be at your creative best.  I used this book to help me put together four or five activities, when I had a few spare moments, that I would then have ready to go when those moments of “desperate need” struck.


     Before Five in a Row, by Jane Lambert.  This was new on the market when my children were younger, but I used it with one of my late readers.  From the web site,

 “….includes 23 FIAR-style mini-units (plus an extra mini-unit!) on outstanding AND simple children’s books for ages 2-4 as well as a large section on learning readiness activities in everyday life; things to do in the kitchen, at the store, at bedtime, bathtime, etc. You’ll find an entire treasury of ideas to prepare children for learning- making sure that they’ve covered all the basic but oh-so-important steps to ensure that they are ready to begin more formal schooling. The perfect introduction to the joys of parent-directed learning in just a few very special minutes each day.” 


We enjoyed this study, using one unit every other week or so.  There are other volumes available to use after Before Five in a Row for those who like the unit study approach.


     Conservative Mennonite publisher Rod and Staff has two excellent series of workbooks for the preschool/kindergarten set, Preschool Activity Books (set of four books for $9), and the A-B-C  series (set of 7 books for $19.95)   Modestly priced and time tested, both of my boys worked their way through these two series, developing and honing necessary early learning skills.   One son loved them and would have loved more.  My other son one day wailed, “Pleeeeeeeeze, Mommy, no more cut and paste!”.   Truth be told, the boy who loved them was my late reader, and these were right up his alley; and the boy who didn’t enjoy them was ready for something more.  I still recommend them.
      
     
    
Learning At Home, Preschool and Kindergarten. – a Christian Parent’s Guide with Day-by-Day Lesson Plans Using the Library as a Resource.  I loved this book with one of my boys!  If your children are ready for a bit of academics, but you don’t want to spend a fortune on prechool or kindergarten curriculum, this is a terrific resource.  Each week’s plan includes Bible, Reading, Math, PE, Storytime and a memory verse.  Other subjects (music, art, health/manners, God’s World (which incorporates several subjects), and character building) are appear on a rotation.  All materials necessary will be common to your home, and most books can be found at your local library (if not on your own shelves).  If I had it to do over again, I would use this resource almost exclusively for those ready to learn aged 4 and up.

     Okay, head on over to Kendra’s blog to read her thoughts on preschool and kindergarten!  She’s included lots of fun, hands on resources.   Next week:  Phonics!

God bless you as you look well to the ways of your household!
Proverbs 31:27
 

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10 comments to Marvelous Monday – Preschool & Kindergarten

  • Thanks for the wonderful ideas and great resources, this was my category today as I have 3 in this season of life
    Blessings~~

  • Loved this.  You are a wise woman.

    I dropped phonics/reading into this post, but I do plan to expound upon it next week.

  • That pic is so sweet of you reading to your kids….

  • @thirdtimemomma – I love the picture, too; but it’s actually a picture of Grandma Meg reading aloud to one of my children and four of my grandbabies (her great grandbabies).   The post about her lovely visit can be read here

  • Loved this post, Cheryl. 
    You had so many good things to say about delighting in our children during this season.  🙂

    I’m bummed you ladies are nearly done with this series!  🙁

    ~Stacy

  • It seems so crazy that we have to be REMINDED to enjoy our little ones, doesn’t it?!  I am right there, though, where the urgent sometimes pushes aside the important. 

    Thank you for taking the time to post about enjoying my little ones!

    We’re going to go have a cuddle time and read some books now.  See ya!  *wave & wink*

  • @Amy – The Lord knew it wouldn’t be easy, that’s why He tells the older women to remind the younger women.   Enjoy many, many of those cuddly, read aloud times!

  • I can’t thank you enough for this post.  I am visiting from Preschoolers and Peace.  I needed this precious reminder and encouragement, as well as the wonderful resources.  I’m feeling overwhelmed right now.  I’m looking forward to reading more on your blog now that I’ve found you.  Thank you so much. 

    ~Tiffany

  • It makes my day to as you put it “How often do you simply gather them up in your arms, spin them around and kiss their chubby little cheeks before setting them back down to go their merry way” i think every parent should do this daily, it gives you such a good feeling inside.